I just got home from a 3 week trip back east that included the ABC Biennial meeting (more about that later) but the meetings got me thinking about freedom.
Walter Shurden spoke at the Coalition for Baptist Principles gathering and told a wonderful story... while pastoring, he invited a number of leaders from their faith traditions to share their traditions in an adult Sunday School class. At the end of one of those meetings, Shurden asked the Catholic priest who had been sharing what he understood to be the central characteristics of the Baptist tradition. Without a blink, the priest replied, "freedom."
Shurden went on to talk about freedom as central to not only the Baptist tradition, but also to the ways in which God relates to humanity. God gives us freedom for faith or not, freedom to follow or not, freedom...
I have to say that I bristle whenever folk talk about the US as being a Christian nation or even that it is founded on Christian ideals and then argue and work towards a theocracy. It seems to me that working towards a theocracy is precisely the opposite of what God wants and a nation where freedom, including absolute freedom of religion, is the distinguishing characteristic, is exactly what God does want. It is a wonderful irony isn't it? God has given us the freedom to not believe, the freedom to not follow. From the positive perspective, God has given us the freedom and responsibility to work out our own salvation in fear and trembling and nobody, including God's self, can impose faith upon us. It is only when we have that freedom that we are living in the kind of society God envisions for us all. God wants us all to be in relationship with God but it is more important that we be able to choose than what we choose.
Happy 4th of July! Let Freedom Ring!